This Model 3 gives us a glimpse into what autonomous driving could mean for us in the future
Yes, hypermiling is a thing. This special driving technique, aimed at lowering fuel consumption or increasing range - when electric vehicles are concerned - is gaining popularity all across the world. With hypermiling, drivers reach out for various driving techniques that allow their cars to travel further on a single tank or battery charge. While not that useful for daily driving or long trip situations, hypermiling is great at showing us how efficient can a vehicle be if proper driving techniques are used.
Coming just a few months after a Tesla Model 3 established a new 975 kilometer (606 miles) hypermiling record, another team has beat it with an even better result: 1,001 kilometers (622 miles). But, this record-breaking run comes with a twist; the Tesla Model 3 record-breaking vehicle was unmanned and running on Autopilot the entire way.
The record-breaking run was performed over the weekend by 'nextmove', an electric car rental company from Germany. While the previous record-setting run was done on public roads, this one was done on the DEKRA testing grounds in Klettwitz, Brandenburg. This allowed 'nextmove" to utilize a completely controlled environment, free of any traffic, roadwork or other distractions. But, even as the controlled environment certainly helped push the vehicle to new record distances, it seems that the use of Autopilot was the item that tipped the scale in favor of this record-setting Model 3.
The company drove another Model 3 without Autopilot - right next to the unmanned Model 3, running on Autopilot. The human-behind-the-wheel Model 3 achieved a total of 23 kilometers (14 miles) less than the unmanned Model 3.
“Naturally, a test circuit with clear markings, long straights, broad curves and few surprises provides near-ideal conditions for the Tesla autopilot. Admittedly, we did not know in advance whether the autopilot could reach the total distance without fault, even during the night.” - said 'nextmove' Managing Director Stefan Moeller
While they say the record-setting Model 3 was completely unmanned - and they might be technically correct - the driver's seat was occupied by a human-like form - a dummy called Spacy. How they've managed to managed to keep the autopilot engaged, thinking there's a real person sitting behind the wheel, then with a few neat tricks.
“In order to make the autopilot think that there was a person sitting at the wheel, a number of tricks were employed: Stefan Moeller started the car and positioned the aids to imitate a hu- man driver in the Tesla Model 3. Finally, he climbed out of the side window during a brief stop: This ensured that nextmove could reenter the car at any time. So as not to lose any aerodynamics, Moeller taped up the side window. Spacy sat in the driver’s seat but during the night, he slept on a mattress that was placed on the folded-down back seats.”
The record-setting run may have been performed by a dummy behind the wheel, but it was done in a fully controlled environment. It makes perfect sense never to try a similar stunt on public roads, and 'nextmove' fully agrees. But it does show you how well - even at this autonomy level - the Model 3 actually performs.
Below, you'll another video showcasing the hypermiling run.